'It was a low point': Palmer recalls worst Christmas

There's nothing better than celebrating Christmas at home, surrounded by food, family and fine wine. We spoke to three Australian celebrities to find out how they are planning to spend the festive occasion and what tips they can impart to the rest of us.

Darren Palmer

Interior designer and judge on Nine Network's The Block. Darren lives in Bondi with his husband, Olivier Duvillard, and they have a son.

What was your favourite Christmas at home?

Two years ago we had a houseful over Christmas: my parents, my in-laws, my sister and my nephew spent Christmas at home with the three of us, and it was brilliant.

We were packed in for sure, but thankfully we have enough space that everyone could retreat to get some alone time when they needed, and we could congregate for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch.

We're doing something similar this year and we can't wait.

What was your least favourite Christmas at home?

A good while ago I was supposed to spend Christmas with someone I was dating and his family, unfortunately we broke up just before and I spent Christmas at home on my own! I think I caught up with friends later in the day but had no formal plans for lunch, which was a bit of a Christmas low point for me.

How do you plan on celebrating Christmas this year?

There will be a few things; we start with a traditional French (my husband and in-laws are French) Christmas Eve feast, and then a traditional Australian Christmas lunch with baked ham and prawn, avocado and mango salad. It'll be great!

What are your top tips for those hosting their own Christmas lunch?

Be prepared. Make lists. Check with guests for food exclusions or allergies. Get things delivered to your house wherever possible. Buy alcohol online and get it delivered to your house. Plan your table decor like you would any other decoration in your home, with a mood board, a brief, and a colour and materials palette.

Make sure you have a great playlist with something for everyone. Do your best, but understand perfection is an illusion and as long as everyone, including you, is having fun, you've done your job.

Lucy Feagins

Stylist, editor and founder of Australia's biggest design blog, The Design Files. Lucy lives in Melbourne with her husband, Gordon, and daughter, Minnie.

What was your favourite Christmas at home?

Last Christmas was pretty special as my husband and I had spent the previous two years building our first home, and it was finished just in time for Christmas.

The feeling of elation when we finally moved in was such a joy, and decorating our first Christmas tree in the new house - surrounded by the inevitable building and moving chaos - was extra special.

However, I am really looking forward to this year's Christmas - it promises to be a little more relaxed and fun, and our daughter is almost two so it will be the first Christmas she really understands and can participate in.

What was your least favourite Christmas at home, and why?

To be honest I can't think of a "worst" Christmas. It can be stressful when catering for lots of people. I tend to prefer a small, intimate Christmas where possible ??? but I can't think of a Christmas I really disliked.

How do you plan on celebrating Christmas this year?

We're heading to my sister-in-law's this year because she has a pool (fingers crossed for the weather). It's a big one with lots of extended family, so it will be a chaotic, fun-filled affair with lots of kids carrying on and far too much food.

What are your top tips for hosting Christmas lunch/dinner?

Delegate, delegate, delegate! It can be so stressful catering for large groups - give everyone a job well in advance to take the edge off on the day.

Do everything you possibly can in advance - things like fruit platter prep, dessert making, cream-whipping, cheese platter prep - anything you can do the night before will be a welcome relief when your kitchen is full of hungry, chatty people.

I also like to stock up with all kinds of snacks - things like cheeses, prosciutto, salami and smoked salmon as well as biscuits and chocolates, to ensure you always have something to take the pressure off if meal prep takes longer than expected.

Cherie Barber

Renovation expert on Network Ten's The Living Room and owner of Renovating for Profit.

What was your favourite Christmas at home, and what was your least favourite Christmas at home?

My best and worst Christmas happened on the same day, funnily enough. I was about seven years old and dashed out to the Christmas tree to find a shiny new orange bike, and signs that Santa had been (which my parents must have had great fun staging). There were old boots dusted in talcum powder to look like snow, half-eaten cookies and crumbs, crumpled beer cans ??? I can still clearly remember the excitement of thinking Santa had trudged in through the snowfields to come to my house.

Then the day took a turn for the worse. I dinked my younger sister down the road on my new wheels and we both came off in loose gravel. I wheeled the twisted bike back home and my mum came out of the house and started screaming. I didn't realise I'd gouged a big hole in my leg and it was bleeding everywhere. Off to emergency we went and I still have the whopping five-centimetre-wide scar to remind me of that day.

How do you plan on celebrating Christmas this year?

This year promises to be the first-ever white Christmas for myself and my 11-year-old daughter Milan, so she's very excited. Together with my partner Matt, we're off to Whistler in Canada so I can brush up on my snowboarding skills and have some quality family time after another hectic year.

What are your top tips for readers hosting Christmas lunch/dinner?

It's much like pulling off a successful renovation. The secret is in the planning, especially if you're catering for big numbers. Do as much preparation as you can before all the guests arrive (making the starters, salads, stuffing), then delegate like mad!

If someone's chatting to you over the breakfast bar, give them a chopping job to do. Hand someone else the champagne bottle and nibbles and send them off around the room. Getting everyone involved definitely takes the pressure off.

This story 'It was a low point': Palmer recalls worst Christmas first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.